Reflections on 4 years in London

by oneafrikan on January 19, 2006

Yesterday was the anniversary of my 4th year in London, so the last few days have been pretty reflective. In that time, I’ve experienced massive fluctuations in personal outlook, mood, financial means, friendships, business success, health and fitness, love and my own sense of what and who I am and everything else in-between. That said, I’m not writing this to moan – in fact, I can honestly say that I’m a better, more balanced, more driven person than I have ever been. And it’s because of the above experiences that I can say that with confidence. If anything, the past 4 years have been something of a pilgrimage, and with any pilgrimage (not that I’ve done one mind) there is a sense of satisfaction that starts surfacing as you start feeling that the pilgrimage itself is worth it.

Along the way, I’ve done some challenging work and collaborated with some great people, picking up new skills, honing old ones, and learning that sometimes it’s OK to say that you aren’t the best person to do something. I’ve learnt more about business than I thought I ever would, mainly through making some really big mistakes early on, but also through being lucky enough to work with some great people who have been willing to share their insights and experiences.

I spent almost two years with an amazing English girl from Somerset whom I’ll never forget, who taught me that life is not all about work, and who also gave me an honest insight into how different my own culture is from British culture. The differences can so subtly similar to the unknowing eye, yet in some ways can be positively opposite. I’ve grown to enjoy and appreciate the English sense of humour, albeit when some of the cultural refrences are obscure or historical.

I’ve always enjoyed the constant stimulation and cosmopolitanism of London, but don’t miss the hustle and bustle when I’m away from it – 40 minutes on a crowded train in mid-summer is not something I want to do a lot of! I’ve been amazed at how different the UK is outside of London, how beautiful and how full of history it is. I’ve regretted not doing as much international travelling as I would have liked – but am hoping to remedy that from here on, with a trip or two to Europe, and a trip to the US as well.

Something I’ve come to relish is a really good English / Indian curry (particularly korma, pasanda, tikka masala) – having not had much of it in South Africa (the stereotype is that it’s quite hot and spicy and good restaurants were not as common where I lived) and a nice old fashioned full English breakfast (I can feel my arteries clogging just thinking about it ;-)) Speaking of which, there’s nothing like a good ‘ol kebab at 3 in the morning on the way home from a good night out!

I think that most of all, I’ve had opportunities in most areas of my life here that I would most likely not have had in South Africa, and that is why I came over here in the first instance. It pains me to say that, but unfortunately it’s true, and doesn’t look like it’s going to change much. I’ve also come to realise how backward South Africa can be in so many ways, yet at the same time, how great it is and how lucky I was to grow up there. I’m continually frustrated by what I call an “arrogant myopia” that seems to afflict South Africans living in SA, and ones who have just arrived off the boat from Heathrow with a few pounds in their back pocket. It’s an arrogance born of ignorance which assumes that South Africa is a microcosm (or perhaps better put a macrocosm?) of the rest of the world, and that business is the same, markets are the same, and people are the same; as in South Africa. I don’t want to dwell on it other than to say that it’s through observing this over and over again that I can say honestly that if for nothing else at all, my 4 years in London have been well spent.

So, what do the next 4 years hold?
Well, I’m trusting my vision and throwing unnecessary caution to the wind to chase my dreams down with everything that I have. For a time I was worried that being a really strong generalist was a bad career thing, but now I know that it’s my strongest asset and one which I’ll need to draw on the most. I’m going to start giving back more tangibly, with projects designed around sustainable ideas, because I think it’s the right thing to do. I’m excited about where the web is heading, and even more excited about the future of web based apps that make life and business easier and I’m also determined to seek out other people like myself to challenge, stimulate and collaborate with.

The next 4 years are gonna be great! ;-)


A thoroughly candid and enjoyable read. Good luck to you and let’s have a beer / curry / fry-up / kebab soon…

by David Cruickshank on January 20, 2006 at 11:06 am. Reply #

Thanks David ;-) Email sent…

by Gareth Knight on January 20, 2006 at 11:24 am. Reply #

Gareth, I really enjoyed reading this well written piece. I’m sure you have learned lots in the 4 years and I really hope you can leverage this well in the future. One day you’ll have to find a healthier diet of course, or perhaps you had special K and low fat milk with that fry-up! Bryan

by Bryan Foss on January 20, 2006 at 2:10 pm. Reply #

[…] :53 UTC Sub-Saharan Africa South Africa Global Roundups One Afrikan celebrates 4 years of living in London.….”If anything […]

by Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » South Africa: 4 years in London on January 20, 2006 at 3:53 pm. Reply #

Great read, just makes me more excited to visit there!

by Internet Business on October 26, 2006 at 5:43 pm. Reply #

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